Aligning sales incentives for aggressive agency growth

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The new year provides an opportunity to reset and set resolutions for a better year ahead.

A recent article by Maxwell Health sales director Kurt Jasin explained how to set aggressive, yet attainable sales goals for your team to drive growth for your agency. It often feels like achieving those goals is easier said than done.

Think of agency growth in three key aspects: keeping the clients you have, making your current book of business more valuable, and bringing on new business. Your entire team — not just your sales team — should be committed to those goals. But, they are distinct initiatives, and your incentives and efforts should be segmented accordingly.

Align your incentives to your growth initiatives. Commission structures at brokerages today often encourage complacency, as commissions continue to pay out without any additional work for years. It’s time to stop coasting. Revisit those incentives to encourage growth by paying more upfront, and re-investing recurring commissions into the company — potentially into those at your agency who do the work to keep your clients happy.

According to a survey conducted by Q4 Intelligence, 42% of respondents indicate that their sales pipeline is the biggest challenge their agency faces. If you identify with that 42%, it’s time to look for new opportunities and new ways to incentivize both a healthy pipeline and quicker sales cycles. Keep your sales team hungry by paying out commissions for closing new deals up front, not over time, and hold your team accountable to the goals you agreed on. You need to equip your team for success, too. You cannot expect the same old strategies to achieve new goals.

Brown & Brown’s Naples, Fla., office refreshed their new business strategy by identifying a new market and approaching it in a radically different way. They identified an underserved segment of their market: small professional firms like law firms or dentist offices with similar demographics and benefits needs that deal with outdated systems, and archaic brokers. Leveraging Maxwell, they curated health and voluntary benefit packages for this type of group, and then conducted customized presentations for each client, laser-focused on solving their biggest problems first. This initiative was also rolled out to their larger prospects, allowing them to convert 17 prospects into partners within 60 days, in under three meetings. Their new revenue in Q4 2016 totaled more than $230,000 and has resulted in nearly half a million dollars in new pipeline opportunities for Q1 2017.

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Optimize your current book of business
For producers in your agency who have longstanding relationships with current clients, align incentives to deepening those relationships. Consider a new client a foot in the door, not the end goal. Look for opportunities to cross-sell employee benefits into your P&C book of business, or expand your footprint with a client by adding lines of coverage or non-insurance products. Most employers are moving to high-deductible plans, but only 36% currently offer voluntary offerings such as critical illness, accident or hospital indemnity insurance, and only 10% offer all three.

Producers shouldn’t continue to be compensated for deals they signed years ago unless the work they’re doing today warrants compensation. Challenge them to make those relationships valuable by increasing voluntary participation. Again, you cannot expect the same old strategies to achieve new goals. Switch up your game plan, and make sure they have the technology to make adding those products easy.

“This is not the time to be your grandfather’s insurance agency,” says Rob Chomo, executive director of business strategy at Brown and Brown. “You’re not going to survive on a LinkedIn account and a sales team that relies on old practices and old relationships for growth.”

Your account management team should be completely in sync with sales, from the top of the sales funnel through the entire client relationship. Your sales team must acknowledge that not every client is created equal. You don’t want customers who deplete your valuable resources or treat your team poorly. Work with your service team to identify the factors that qualify an ideal prospect, and identify your deal-breakers.

Brown & Brown knows this well, and walks away from prospects that compare them to the competition based on quotes alone. “We’ve totally changed our discovery and sales conversations. It’s never about quoting plans,” says Chomo. “After a discovery meeting, we come back with custom compliance, liability and technology solutions to solve our prospect’s biggest problems. We shift the conversation from cost to value provided. We’re outperforming in every discipline. The only one we can’t outperform on is plan cost. That’s out of our control, so we walk away from accounts that respond with ‘quote it for me.’ ”

Once prospects become clients, your service team’s priorities should be focused not only on creating happy customers, but evangelists for your agency — clients who will go shout your praises from the nearest proverbial rooftop. Client services team members should be working to identify happy customers who sales prospects can use as referrals, and should share in the rewards of ongoing commissions and new business won based on referrals for groups for which they’re responsible. This is also about client stickiness. You never want to be in a situation where a producer can start a competing agency with half your book. You want every one of your clients to feel like they’d be leaving behind 4-6 people and valuable resources should they leave your agency.

The process of modernizing your agency and preparing for aggressive growth is a process, and won’t happen overnight. It requires your whole team’s buy-in. In our next article, we’ll address how to motivate a modern agency to achieve the goals you set for them.

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